What do disability claims and bagels have in common? They both have holes. At least that’s potentially the case in today’s Fraud of the Day from the NYDailyNews.com. And, the joke is pretty funny…unless you’re thinking like a taxpayer.
The article reports that a former Long Island mail carrier who claimed she was unable to work because she said she injured her back six years ago was recently discovered to be working in a bagel shop. The woman was caught on video surveillance tapes baking and serving customers with no apparent pain. According to her co-workers, she has been working nearly full-time for five years.
Over the course of these five years, she allegedly appropriated $143,000 in federal disability checks – all while slaving over a hot oven. The article cited comments from neighbors and co-workers who noted that she often worked ten-hour shifts and that she had no problem crouching down to weed her garden. Maybe it’s just working as a mail carrier that causes her pain. Her alleged boss at the bagel shop claimed to have no idea who she is.
She was arrested and charged with mail fraud. (Oh, the irony.) She is, of course, innocent until proven guilty. If convicted, she could face five years in prison and be ordered to make full restitution. (If one bagel equals $1.43, how many bagels will it take to recover $143,000?)
If disability fraud is potentially this easy, how can agencies protect themselves against it? Identity-based filters and background checks is one way. Checking for oven burns is another.